Ask Scott Williamson for a standout among Musk Creek Farm’s current weanling crop and he cannot give you a straight answer. He pinballs between about half a dozen – maybe more. It’s not a bad thing but rather quite the opposite. As our conversation unfolded, you start to understand why.
Speaking on the Dundeel colt out of Personalised, Williamson says: ‘He would be our standout foal in any other year but it’s such an even crop. One week it’s him, another week it’s the Written Tycoon and in another it’s one of our American Pharoahs, who has grown a bit more.’
Later, he is asked about the “Written Tycoon”, a colt out of Apologynotaccepted, and Williamson remarks: ‘Personally, he is my pick of the lot. I love to look at him every day. I take photos of him in the paddock. He’s just an exciting colt, and you look forward to taking ones like them to the sales.’
Williamson continues: ‘[One of the] American Pharoahs is out of If I Can I Can and that mare produces nothing but good foals. When Boomer (Craig Rounsefell) and David Kobritz visited the farm recently, Boomer spotted the colt and we all thought he could be the best we’ve seen and most like his sire.
‘It is just really hard. You look at these foals every day and change your mind on which one is the standout. You sense they could be a bit special. It makes those cold mornings getting out of bed, walking the paddocks and feeding so much easier. We can’t wait to show them off at the sales.’
The Musk Creek Farm homebred weanlings are 6-8 months old. They remain small in quantity while David Kobritz continues his restructuring efforts for the broodmare band. Their purchase of Anna Cecelia at last week’s Inglis Chairman’s Sale, via agent Craig Rounsefell, confirms this work-in-progress.
But farm manager Williamson has been working hard to deliver on weanling and yearling stock for the here-and-now. He has a palpable sense of enthusiasm, and it’s undeniably contagious.
‘Boomer (Rounsefell) and I have put a lot of effort in to make sure the matings match on type. Pedigrees must work but we want to ensure that the broodmare receives what she needs.
‘I’m at the farm all the time and Boomer offers insights from a different perspective. We share ideas with David Kobritz and constantly put thought into it, and we tend to be on the same wavelength. We expect the foals to come as planned and so far, we have not been disappointed.
‘It has been a fruitful season so far. Everything is coming together.’
The Dundeel colt out of Personalised is notable for being a mating that originated as a fundraising effort for the Team Tye Foundation in 2019. The resultant foal is proving to be more than charity.
‘He is an outstanding individual and very similar to his half-brother in strength and shape,’ says Williamson. ‘He is a robust colt, with good bone and great strength through his body and hindquarter.’
Personalised’s first foal by Spirit of Boom sold for $575,000 at the 2021 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale – an auction record for the farm when under Williamson management. This bodes well for the Dundeel colt, born in late October but as ready and well developed as the entire weanling crop.
‘He does not look out of place with the others,’ Williamson says. ‘He possesses a bit of attitude and is able to hold his own. These first two foals out of Personalised are as good as you could hope for.’
Apologynotaccepted’s first foal – by Medaglia d’Oro – was adored by the Musk Creek Farm team but ‘was a typical first foal, lacking some size and substance.’ Her second foal is a stark contrast, with the mare covered by Written Tycoon, a powerhouse pursuing the title of 2020-21 champion sire.
‘He has been quality from day one and continues to be quality today,’ Williamson says.
The Street Boss colt out of Notre Dame is a first foal from the daughter of four-time Group 1 winner Divine Madonna. Notre Dame is a half-sister to another Musk Creek Farm resident broodmare in Deipara, who sold an I Am Invincible filly for $320,000 at Magic Millions earlier this year.
Williamson starts to describe this colt using just one word: outstanding.
‘We bought the mare last year and this colt foaled up in the Hunter Valley due to the pandemic. But Taghadoe Stud gave me glowing reports from their farm straight away. And when he stepped off the truck for the first time, I was very pleased. He has got a great shoulder, chest and strong hindquarter.
‘He is as good as you could hope in a first foal. It gives you confidence with the matings you are doing, and with this mare currently in foal to Written Tycoon, it sets her up going forward.’
Musk Creek Farm have two homebred colts by Coolmore’s Triple Crown hero American Pharoah. The If I Can I Can foal is considered a three-year-old type that will develop into a potential Guineas horse. The sire’s Mumtaazah colt is different, much less like current American Pharoahs on Australian turf.
‘The Mumtaazah colt is an early, precocious, well-muscled horse. He is much sharper than your typical American Pharoah type at the sale,’ says Williamson. ‘Mumtaazah tends to throw a racey, big-hipped horse, and this colt is an excellent type. The mare is producing a better foal every year.’
The next phase of development is crucial. Musk Creek Farm is preparing their weanlings to become the quality thoroughbreds of tomorrow that buyers desire. But Williamson is conscious of one thing: keeping a horse, a horse. And his approach to development in the weanling phase reflects this.
‘The main thing we’re doing now is trying to leave them alone for as long as possible. They are out in their paddocks, in their mobs, roaming around with a nanny out to give them guidance,’ he says.
‘We want to develop them naturally. It is important they are not cooped in their boxes or in small yards all time. We want them out and moving around to let the bone develop, using the undulations of the Flinders property to our advantage, and seeing the results from that.’
But the weanlings are also being reviewed for their suitability as the 2022 yearling sales season calls. With each return from the farrier, Williamson runs the rule over each horse, and, between him and David Kobritz, the team draws up their preferred lists, with an eye to maximise individual worth.
The strategy is less about targeting sales and far more holistic, with a focus on the horse itself. As Williamson explains: ‘We have made our lists and assessed each horse based on pedigree, physical and then start to decide, this one is suitable for a January sale or this one may be best for Easter.
‘But we have to look at each horse and make sure that they are ready as well. For example, the Personalised colt may be a half-brother to a colt that did well at Magic Millions, but he was a late October foal who is by Dundeel. He is probably a big ask to go to Magic Millions in 2022.
‘You want to make sure that when you are selling a horse like him, that he is at his optimum. Yes, he could be taken to any sale and he is going to get inspections. It is not a case of us going to a Magic Millions, take the money and go. You want to make sure he is getting every possible chance.’
“It is not an exact science for us, but we try to place our yearlings where their best fit is.— Farm Manager Scott Williamson
Musk Creek Farm will know more when the calendar hits July. According to Williamson, this is the time when the weanlings destined for Magic Millions ‘will put their hand up’. But their lists stay fluid and are subject to change at seemingly any time. There is no pressure to push one into any one sale.
Williamson also understands the behaviour of each sale and how it could impact on Musk Creek Farm’s stock performance at auction. ‘Those middle-distance horses do not mature as quickly, even if they are born at the same time as other horses. They simply do not have the top-line muscle mass.
‘You have to know the breeds that you are working with. A Capitalist, Deep Field, Snitzel or Not a Single Doubt are always going to perform well at Magic Millions. But they can also make a killing at Easter if they have the pedigree. And stayers are being sought after more at Premier.’
‘It is not an exact science for us, but we try to place our yearlings where their best fit is. If that means we have a draft of three at one sale and seven going to another, then that is where they best fit. It is in our best interests to place our horses in sales where they will do best.
‘It helps promote the farm, helps us more financially, and we get more exposure being present at more than one sale. It helps us as a brand, as more people can see that we are putting thought into where we are placing our horses.’